“Peace is not the absence of war but the presence of justice.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
The word peace is used loosely at rallies, on posters and stickers, through hand signals – in fact, the word is ubiquitous. However, if one were to adopt Dr. King’s definition then peace becomes unanimous with justice. The problem with that however is that justice, much like peace is a nebulous concept.
In 2008, political unrest ravaged Zimbabwe like a veld-fire leaving most Zimbabweans shaken and insecure. Women are still struggling to come to terms with rape and other violations inflicted upon their bodies. Some children were forced to grow up too fast and become heads of households because their parents died in the chaos that had gripped the country.
Yes, Zimbabwe cannot be compared with other war torn countries in Africa. The streets are not filled with soldiers. Neither are the roads damaged by grenades. Citizens are not accustomed to the sound of gunfire. However, the screams for help are the same. Some of them so silent, their echo can only be heard in the hearts and wombs of those who make them. The violence left scars, deep wounds which have not yet healed.
Most Zimbabweans love to describe this country as a peaceful nation. Yes, the physical traces of war are not visible but we cannot claim to have peace. Zimbabweans are at war- a different kind of war. We are fighting political and economic instability. We are fighting poverty, HIV and AIDS. We fight against impunity and fight for redress of the gross human rights violations that have shaped our history since colonialism. We also fight against ignorance as the most violent element in this war, the same ignorance that makes some Zimbabweans believe that we have peace.
Today is the International Day of Peace.
We need to ask ourselves what has our government done to stop violence? What have they done to heal communities carrying scars from the violence? Are the relationships amongst our politicians and our leaders instigators of peace amongst their followers or they actually incite violence? To what extent has government improved ownership, control and management of natural resources by locals in a non-partisan way allowing for every citizen to benefit from these resources given that resource management is a major source of conflict?
We need real peace, positive peace in our country and we may never have it until all the questions raised above are answered in the affirmative.
This article was co-written between myself and Yolanda Zinyemba, a colleague.